Let me start off by saying in the past that I have been on 6 carnival cruises, and I was in their corner for being one of the industry leaders. After returning yesterday from a 7 day cruise on the Conquest, my wife, my friends, and I have all decided that it will be our last Carnival cruise.
The first thing you notice about Carnival is that they can care less about customer loyalty. We not only have sailed with them 6 times, but we have sold no less than 30 cabins for them over those six cruises. On this particular cruise we took our daughter, and paid for ½ of her shared cabin, and got no credit for it at all. All they give you for that customer loyalty is a Gold sign and sail card ..whoopee!!! Other cruise lines like Royal Caribbean give you vip boarding and many other amenities after just 5 cruises, and also give you extras when you bring friends with you.
Now for the cruise itself. Embarkation in Galveston was fine. Allow about an hour or so to get on the ship. And....amazingly, our luggage was in our room by 5:00Pm. But...get ready for this. Up and down the hall there was a buzz from all passengers. Our luggage had been rifled through...not looking for guns or bombs..or security items. They were looking for Liquor, and confiscating any liquor brought on to the ship. In all the years we have cruised Carnival, nothing like this has ever happened. They went through my wifes and my luggage, and we felt violated. These are not homeland security people....these are the foreigners that work for Carnival looking at your luggage for their own gain. Find that liquor and get it out! Then they can charge you almost $8.00 for a Crown Drink or $ 6.00 for a beer. They will tell you that they sell drinks for the average going rate, but what they don't tell you is that they are selling duty/tax free liquor that cost about 30 percent of what you pay for a bottle at your favorite liquor store. So they are maximizing profit in that area.
Food- The food in the dining rooms was consistant for quality, and temperature. They had a wide variety on the menu, and the food would be considered well above average for a cruise ship. The food in the buffet was not so good, and in lots of cases was cold and tasteless. Breakfast found the eggs looking powdery, breakfast sausage was mixed with left over hot dog chili, and the bacon had a lb of grease on it. In the past, the hot dog/hamburger grill was open until late at night, but that has been changed to 6:00PM, so your options after 6 are buffet, dining, or room service, or late night pizza, and no Hamburgers or Hot dogs available. This might be important to you if you have kids.
Rules- Carnival has strict guidelines/dress codes for dress in the dining rooms for dinner. These guidelines on non formal nights include, dress shorts, or dress slacks, shirts with collars etc. These dress codes are not worth the paper they are written on because they don't enforce them. We had a guy sit down next to us on formal night in a Skull cap, tshirt, and jogging pants, and they served him, and he smelled like he had been working out. I mentioned something to the maitre'd and he told me "Yes, I am afraid that is the way it is going these days"!!!
Note- During our cruise we became aware from overhearing crew talk that there was a large number of people that were ill on the ship. This was evidenced by midweek, when the buffet went from a self serve to the station attendants serving you. Nothing was ever said to let the guest know we should take extra precautions with hand washing etc. ( maybe they should have bathed the guy in the skull cap, tshirt and jogging pants and killed some germs on him).
The shows were mostly reruns, but were colorful, and well done. The comedians were new and funny. There are no longer art auctions, but they did have a wine tasting. The quality of Jewelry and perfumes for sale has been lowered, and more tshirts and junk are out there to appeal to the trinket buyers.
Rooms- The ship is a little long in the tooth- they were replacing carpet at night on the ship. The rooms were clean, and the cabin stewards were hit or miss. On our deck lido, our steward was attentive, and extremely professional. On the 7th floor, our friends encounted a rude cabin steward that didn't want to do much of anything. Since you are automatically billed for tips and most people 99 percent go along with it, what justification do they have to work hard for you???? They get the tip anyway.
The ports were nice and the ship was on time. Getting on and off the ship was tedious as there were lines. It was nice to see the change of the Bahamas from the normal Cayman/Cozumel trip. I personally think they should replace Jamaica, and all its crime with a stop in Key West or the Bahamas.
If you are a new cruiser just starting out, realize that all of the other cruise lines offer the same amenities as Carnival, and they all do it better, and it might cost a few dollars more. You do get what you pay for...remember that. I have been a Carnival fan for many years, but since they have changed policies, and continue to show no loyalty to me, I don't feel any loyalty to them in the future.